Category Archives: Communities

Marketing 101: 5 Ways to Enhance Your Social Media

At Transform Consulting Group, we see many organizations launch services and programs in response to an obvious need in the community or a gap to address. Your organization is getting into your work, because you have a passion for a cause. Too often nonprofits spend their time on making their programs and services amazing and not as much time on their marketing efforts.Social Media Image

We don’t expect you to be a marketing genius. We want to equip you with simple tools, so that you can do what you do best and it starts with your marketing.

We launched our Marketing 101 series with 5 Tips for Building Your Brand. In this blog we are focusing on your social media presence and will provide simple tips you can immediately implement with little time, budget or resources.

First, you may be wondering why invest time in social media? Social media is continuing to grow everyday – with over 69% of adults now using some sort of social media platform. It is a simple, low-cost way to promote your organization.

There are numerous social media platforms you can decide to utilize for your nonprofit. We understand your time is limited and recommend choosing 1 or 2 social media platforms to get started. There is no reason to spend time on every available social media site and stretch yourself too thin. By choosing 1 or 2 platforms, you can spend the necessary time making sure your efforts get the biggest bang.

There is a little science to choosing what social media platform to invest in, and it really depends on your audience and message. However, we suggest at least starting with Facebook. Facebook is the largest platform, with over 1 billion users daily. Other options to consider are Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and the list goes on. Regardless of your chosen platform, these best practices can be implemented!

5 Ways to Enhance Your Social Media

  1. Post Regularly

Your followers need to hear from you on a consistent basis. Your posting schedule will vary depending on your social media platform. On Facebook, you should post at least one time a day. Twitter operates at a much faster pace and if you truly want your content viewed then you will need to post 3-5 times a day. On sites like LinkedIn, you may find that posting 3-5 times a week is most appropriate for your audience.

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 3.47.28 PMThis may seem daunting at first which is why we recommend scheduling your posts when possible. On Facebook for example, you can schedule as many posts as you want for free by clicking on the blue box on your wall.

There are also many tools available for scheduling posts on multiple social media sites. We use Hootsuite to schedule posts for Transform Consulting Group.

The hardest thing about posting regularly is coming up with compelling and relevant content! When crafting your content, consider posting the following:

  • Articles related to your cause to demonstrate your knowledge on the issue areas you are addressing;
  • Event information for upcoming activities within your organization or community;
  • Data and statistics that highlight your impact and successes;
  • Pictures of your work in action (pending client approval/permission;
  • Content shared by partners or other organizations in your network.

  1. Utilize free analytics tools

On most social media platforms, there are built in analytics tools you can use for free. (Facebook calls these tools “Insights” and you’ll find the tab in the top banner. LinkedIn and Twitter have tabs called “Analytics”).

These tools are only useful if you know what data to track. Here is an example of the data we monitor on Facebook on our company page and for clients like the Indiana Heart Gallery:

  • Reach – This number tells you how many people are viewing your content or page. It also includes people who haven’t “followed” your page, but can see your content.
  • Post Engagement – This number shows how often people are “liking” or “sharing” your content. By scrolling to the bottom of the “Insight” page, you can see the engagement on every post and use this information to determine the types of posts your audience is interested in.
  • People (found on the left side of the screen, under “Insights”) – This tab shows basic demographic data about the people who “like” your page. Determine the gender, age, and location of your target audience. Are those the same people who are viewing your content? If not, you may need to change up the things you are posting to attract the demographic you want to engage.
  • When Your Fans are Online (click on “Insights” and “Posts” on the left side of the screen) – This data will show you what days of the week and time of day your fans are online. This is valuable information as you start scheduling posts. Use this data to determine when you should post to ensure the most eyes see your content.
  1. Use visuals

Photos and videos perform better on all social media platforms. Avoid posts that just include text, but instead upload images or videos that capture your fans’ attention. Always make sure to include a photo when posting links to articles or a page on your website.

  1. Experiment with adsScreen Shot 2018-04-11 at 3.49.17 PM

We have had good luck with Facebook Ads for as little as $10 per post for our client the Indiana Heart Gallery.

The Indiana Heart Gallery has great engagement with followers on social media, but we wanted to target individuals who don’t already know about the Heart Gallery for our major events. The advantage of utilizing ads is that your content will reach people who aren’t already engaged with your page.

Whatever platform you utilize for ads, make sure you are specific about your target audience. Most platforms allow you to choose specific demographics, location, etc. of the people you want to target. Spend time making sure your content is appealing to the same target audience you are targeting with your ad.

  1. Engage with “Fans”

Respond quickly to messages, retweet partners’ post, share content, “like” comments on your wall, etc. The more you engage, the more often your company will pop up in people’s newsfeed!

At TCG, we are passionate about helping you move your mission forward. Are you interested in partnering? Contact us today and learn more!

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Why You Should Consider Implementing STEM Curriculum

It’s all the buzz right now, so what is STEM? The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s an approach to education that’s designed to revolutionize the typical teaching of subjects like math and science by incorporating technology and engineering into regular curriculum.

STEM Education shifts the typical teacher-centered classroom by encouraging a curriculum that is driven by problem-solving, discovery, exploratory learning and hands-on activities. Some programs have added “A” for art making the acronym “STEAM”. By adding art, educators are promoting creativity and flexible thinking among students in a science and mathematics context.Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 9.47.29 PM

Workforce and economic development experts strongly support the need for a STEM/STEAM focus, which may be why it’s such a hot topic right now:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics & Statistics Administration, career opportunities related to STEM over the past ten years have grown three times as fast as non-STEM jobs.
  • In 2018, there are projected to be 2.4 million STEM jobs in the U.S that could go unfilled due to the lack of qualified workers.
  • STEM occupations have wages significantly above the national average wage for all occupations. The national average wage for all STEM occupations was $87,570, nearly double the national average wage for non-STEM occupations ($45,700).

In a recent project, our team worked with an organization to apply for a 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant. This non-profit organization offers after-school programming for middle school and high school students. Part of their grant application included implementing STEAM in their weekly curriculum and connecting students to local STEAM career pathways. As we worked to implement this curriculum shift, the organization saw four major benefits.

Benefits of STEM / STEAM:

  1. Help students accomplish their postsecondary education attainment and career goals.
  2. Address the community’s career pathways gap.
  3. Pave the way for new partnerships.
  4. Open doors for securing additional funding to sustain the program.
1. Help students accomplish their postsecondary education attainment and career goals.
 

By offering STEM / STEAM focused curriculum, you are supporting students’ development of skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary for success in postsecondary education and economically viable career options. This focus encourages strong community partnerships, which allow students to participate in internships and apprenticeships. It also provides additional opportunities for creative and innovative academic enrichment that support students in developmental areas such as academic, social/emotional, civic engagement, wellness, etc. By exposing students to various STEM / STEAM careers, it helps them identify their postsecondary education and career pathway.

2. Address the community’s career pathways gap.

By offering a STEM / STEAM program, you can help set your community up for success by encouraging skills needed for the local workforce. In our example regarding the 21st CCLC grant application, we found that a STEM / STEAM focus for students could really pay off for the entire county. In one school district included in the program, 55% of the students enrolled in college within a year following graduation. Unfortunately, the students are not persisting through completion. Currently, only 29% of the county adults hold an Associate’s degree or higher. That is less than half of the students who enrolled in postsecondary education and the state’s projected goal and need for 60% of adults to have postsecondary education. In this same community, manufacturing jobs – high-skilled and high paying jobs – represent almost half of the employment in the county. Expanding students’ knowledge of STEM-related careers and creating stronger partnerships as well as career pathways will be a game changer in this county!

Boy Assembling Robotic Kit In Bedroom

3. Pave the way for new partnerships.

With a structured STEM / STEAM curriculum, organizations can pull in local partnerships to enhance programming. With the organization mentioned above, we had numerous businesses in the community agree to facilitate field trips, presentations, and hands on activities to enrich the programming for students while also educating the students about local career pathways available. This is invaluable experience for a student who is trying to figure out what their options are after graduation. It is also a beneficial partnership for businesses who need to maintain their workforce pipeline.

4. Open doors for securing additional funding to sustain the program.

Because STEM / STEAM is all the hype right now, there are numerous funding streams available to support your work. Funders see this as a significant need in our education and workforce systems and are looking to support organizations who can successfully address this need. For the 21st CCLC grant, priority points were given to organizations who included STEM / STEAM in their programming. There is ample data available to convince local businesses and philanthropic partners to invest. Having a clear, focused curriculum in place can open NEW doors for additional funding streams.

As education and technology continues to transform the way we live, work, and learn, STEM / STEAM is something to consider for organizations serving young people. If your organization is ready to take the plunge and shift your curriculum focus, we’d love to work with you. We can help find funding, research programs, write your grant, evaluate existing efforts, and more. Contact us today and let’s chat!

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How Are Indiana’s Youngest Children Doing? The 2018 ELAC Annual Report Gives Insight.

Indiana’s Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) just released its 2018 Annual Report—the fifth since ELAC’s inception in 2013. Annually, ELAC completes a needs assessment for the state’s early learning system and recommends solutions. The goal is to baseline where Indiana is using key indicators and to make best practice recommendations to address the gaps. The result of this year’s annual needs assessment is three key reports and tools: 

ELAC’s seven appointed members work alongside 150 workgroup volunteers who focus on different aspects of the state’s early learning system. All this energy centers on providing early childhood care and education that is accessible, high-quality, and affordable to all families.

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How Are Children Ages 0-5 Doing Today?

  • Of the 506,761 children in Indiana ages 0-5, 65% need care because all parents are working. This includes working parents who are single as well as households where both parents work outside the home.Figure 3
  • Of those children who need care, only 41% are enrolled in known programs. The other three-fifths of children are in informal care settings—with a relative, friend, or neighbor—where the quality of care is unknown.
  • Of the young children who need care, only 15% are enrolled in high-quality programs. A high-quality program not only ensures that children are safe, but also supports their cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development for kindergarten readiness and beyond.

What Are Some Of Indiana’s Accomplishments On Behalf Of Young Children?Figure 15

  • There are more high-quality early childhood care and education programs available. In 2012, Indiana had just over 700 high-quality programs. There are now almost 1,200.
  • Today there are 4.5 times more children enrolled in high-quality programs than there were five years ago.
  • Over half of the counties increased their number of high-quality programs.

What Is The Unmet Need Identified In The 2018 ELAC Annual Report?

  • There are communities in Indiana with no high-quality programs.
  • The tuition cost of high-quality early childhood care and education programs is unaffordable, and the available financial assistance for low-income families is  insufficient.
  • There is a lack of high-quality seats for infants. Only 7% of children ages 0-5 in high-quality programs are infants. Tuition Comparison

How Can I Find Out More?

  • As in past years, ELAC has published a full annual report, which includes statewide data on Indiana.
  • ELAC has also compiled updated 2018 county-level data for all 92 Indiana counties to aid local stakeholders and coalitions in their work. Use the map to select your county. You can review your county’s profile in an interactive dashboard or a PDF report!
  • There is a newly created feature this year! ELAC published an interactive dashboard with all of the data in the annual report—allowing you to learn more about specific data points and easily present data to stakeholders. There are also comparisons between counties to see how well your community is doing compared to others.

Transform Consulting Group is proud to support ELAC’s work to help each of our youngest learners reach their full potential!

Transform Consulting Group can also help your organization or coalition with data analysis, creating dashboards to visualize your data, and meaningful reporting. Contact us to multiply your impact!

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Research Spotlight: Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs

At Transform Consulting Group, we make it a priority to stay current with the latest research and trends across our client’s sectors. For example, we wrote in a previous blog about a new practice where programs are using a two-generational approach, which looks to achieve greater impact through services that support both children and adults. Many times, those program models are based on research that supports its success. In this blog, we spotlight an innovative study that is being used in many sectors: the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study.

What is the ACEs Study?

Between 1995 and 1997, Dr. Vince Felitti from Kaiser-Permanente and Dr. Bob Anda with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) conducted surveys of more than 17,000 adults in Southern California about trauma experienced in their childhood. The trauma included abuse, neglect, parental mental illness, incarceration, poverty, substance abuse, divorce or separation, and domestic violence. The researchers found that one in eight respondents had four or more ACEs (1 point for every “yes”), and two-thirds (67%) of respondents had at least one ACE.  

ACE Blog Infographics 2

What are the implications of an ACE score?

The researchers found a strong relationship between ACE scores and negative health outcomes, in that a higher ACE score resulted in higher rates of illness and disease. Specifically, they reported for those who had an ACE score of four or more, they were 2.5 times more likely to have hepatitis, 4.5 times more likely to have depression, and 12 times more likely to attempt suicide compared to those with an ACE score of zero. In addition, those who had an ACE score of seven or more had triple the lifetime risk of lung cancer and 3.5 times ischemic heart disease, the number one killer in the United States (as of 2014).

Some reacted to these results without shock, already linking childhood trauma with higher rates of at-risk behaviors, such as smoking and drinking. However, research now shows the affect childhood trauma has on the developing brain, including inhibiting the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for reasoning and impulse-control, as well as the amygdala, which is the brain’s fear-response center. This research is important to know; however, the ACEs Study also shows that those who do not partake in high-risk behaviors are still more likely to develop heart disease or cancer. As Nadine Burke Harris explains in her TED Talk on this subject, this is due to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the brain and body’s fight-or-flight response system. She equates this to seeing a bear in the forest and how your body recognizes the threat, activates the axis, and increases the body’s stress response (higher heart rate, opened airway, eyes dilate, etc.), so you are ready to either fight or run from the bear. This is a life-saving stress response when you are in a forest with a bear, but what happens when this stress response is triggered repeatedly due to threats in the home, or at school, or anywhere else in life?

Having this stress response triggered in a child repeatedly has been shown to negatively impact their developing brain, immune system, hormonal systems, and how one’s DNA is read, to the point of higher rates of illness and disease in later life, as the ACEs Study confirms above.

How to Determine an ACE Score

By popular demand, Dr. Anda released to the public a PDF of the questionnaire used to identify one’s ACE score. It is a simple 10-question survey that anyone can administer in which a “yes” equates to one point. The sum of all “yes” responses is an individual’s ACE score.

ACE Blog Infographics

Some government agencies, such as health departments are adding the ACEs questionnaire to other survey instruments administered to the public to gather information about their local population’s trauma experiences.

Using ACEs to Inform Your Work

No matter your sector or nature of work, there are a few takeaways from this study.

  1. Adverse childhood experiences are very common and affect the majority of the population regardless of income, race, or other socio-economic factors.
  2.     ACEs negatively impact a child’s development in many ways.
  3.     The more ACEs experienced, the greater risk for illness and disease.

At Transform Consulting Group, we provide project management for the Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC), which consists of seven volunteer workgroups that focus on different aspects of early learning. Multiple ELAC workgroups have used the findings from this ACEs Study to inform their work, including the Child Development and Well-Being workgroup. In 2017, this workgroup helped draft a policy on suspension and expulsion using brain development research that relates to one finding from the ACEs Study which shows how higher ACE scores negatively impact a child’s brain and social-emotional development. In addition to careful wording in the policy, the workgroup is also developing resources to support the implementation of this policy, as well as information on brain development and trauma’s impact.

Another ELAC workgroup, Evaluation of Child and Family Outcomes, is looking to use data from the ACEs Study as family outcome measures, including reporting the barriers created by childhood trauma and how families are doing. The Indiana State Department of Health is planning to add the ACEs questionnaire to an upcoming survey, so there will be information on ACEs scores for some Hoosiers.

 

We at Transform Consulting Group know the importance of understanding the latest research to help our clients align with best practices and accelerate their impact. Want to learn more about how we can support your work and integrate the latest research? Contact us today!

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4 Ways to Raise Awareness for Your Cause

There are so many worthy causes to support, which can make it tricky when working to promote YOURS. How can you leverage specific times of the year to create buzz around your mission? How do you make your campaign stand out against the others?

One important project that our team is proud to manage is the Indiana Heart Gallery for the Indiana Department of Child Services. The Heart Gallery is a traveling photo exhibit featuring children in foster care who are available for adoption. (You can learn more in this past blog post).

While we work year-round to promote foster adoption, we really amp up our efforts during November which is National Adoption Month. We latch onto the buzz already generated throughout the month to bring attention to the need for adopting older children. While this cause may be different from your organization’s, the methods we used to raise awareness can still be applied!

1. Host a Press Conference

Get ahead of the message by hosting a press conference to communicate your efforts. On November 1st, the Indiana IMG_3487Heart Gallery had a press conference to kick off National Adoption Month. We were able to use this platform to set the stage for a month long campaign. We invited partners with similar goals to join us and highlighted their efforts as well. We also brought in big name speakers, like the Indiana Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura and Supreme Court Judge Mary Willis, to add credibility to our presentation and attract attention. This press conference allowed us to educate the public on National Adoption Month as a whole, communicate the goal of the Indiana Heart Gallery, and promote upcoming events.

2. Throw an Event

Occasionally, you have to do things differently. Offer your supporters (or potential supporters) a fun night out or an unique opportunity to get involved.

While the Indiana Heart Gallery travels to different venues every month, it’s usually a standalone exhibit. This structure works great for achieving our month-to-month goals, but occasionally we need to spice things up and offer a different way to engage the public in our project.

IMG_2582We do this by hosting Family Fun Events. During these events, we have adoption staff on-hand to answer specific questions about the foster to adopt process and usually have fun freebies to entice families to come!

For example, we hosted a Family Night at both the Memorial HealthWorks! Kids Museum in South Bend and the Children’s Museum of Evansville. We cover the entry into the museum, refreshments, prizes, photo booth and then feature the Indiana Heart Gallery. We share personal stories of adoption and connect families to local resources. The goal is to engage people who don’t know much about foster adoption and allow for an informal setting for them to learn more.

These events led to many families ready to take the steps toward adoption! It was an informal, fun environment where they could learn key information about foster adoption without any commitments.

3. Amp up Social Media

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 11.47.46 AMEven if you’re already very active on social media, don’t be afraid to try new things. Especially during your awareness building campaigns. For the Indiana Heart Gallery, we have a strong following on both Facebook and Twitter. Typically we will post daily news, statistics, and information about our events. During November, we used Facebook ads to really enhance our campaign and start reaching those people who have never heard of us. With a small budget, we were able to set specific demographic criteria and reached nearly 2,000 new people to share our message.

We also did strategic email blast posts to supporters and partners alerting them of events happening in their area and to share information about National Adoption Month. Think differently about leveraging the communication tools you have available to promote your cause.

4. Send Compelling Press Releases

We shared tips for writing press releases in this blog. Press releases are a great way to communicate your cause. For the Indiana Heart Gallery, we often use press releases to highlight events, but they can also be used to share information or statistics about your cause. Send them strategically during your campaign and remember to always follow up with calls, emails, or additional information!

Our TCG team worked hard to pull together all the above (and more!) to make November a success for our client and ultimately the children waiting for a family to call their own. It’s what we do when we manage a project. Want to learn more about how we can partner on your next big project or campaign? Contact us today!

 

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10 Tips for Your Year-End Giving Campaign

2017 is quickly coming to an end! Before you know it, we’ll be saying “Happy New Year” and plans for 2018 will be underway.

blog infographic 1We’re heading into the season of giving. It is that time of year where donor dollars increase significantly. Year-end giving trends suggest that nearly one third of annual giving happens in December.

At Transform Consulting Group, we highlighted tips for ending your fiscal year strong in this blog. One way to finish the year on a high note, is to kick off a year-end campaign with these simple tips:

  1. Start Planning Now: You can’t wait until the last few weeks of December to reach out to donors or to make the first “ask.” Get a plan in place today that you can implement over the next few weeks.

  2. Send Something: Whether it’s a holiday greeting in the mail or an email blast wrapping up the year, your current donors need to hear from you. You can highlight an accomplishment from this year, share a specific need heading into the New Year, or just thank the donor for their past generosity. Most likely your donors are hearing from other organizations too, and you need to be on their radar.blog infographic 2

  3. Engage Volunteers: Take the time to appreciate your volunteers this year. Thank them for the time they
    invested in your organization. You may even decide to give a special gift to those who met X amount of service hours. Volunteers are twice as likely to donate to your organization. These are the people who are already engaged in your mission and have seen first-hand the work you do. 

  4. Enlist Your Board: Your board of directors can be your biggest asset this time of year. Have board members write personal thank you notes, make phone calls or accompany you to meetings with donors.

  5. Segment Your Contact List: Your strategy should be different for different donors or partners. Organize your contacts into specific lists and plan your approach for each group such as: major donors, once a year donors, volunteers, alumni (past clients if appropriate), board, etc.

  6. Go Visual: Create consistent images and visuals for all aspects of your campaign. Try highlighting major accomplishments or data using infographics (check out our blog series on infographics here). Feature client success stories and quotes with photos (if appropriate). Create images and banners to display on all social media platforms. You can even set up a microsite just for your holiday campaign that clearly showcases your goals and progress over the next few weeks.

  7. Plan A Giving Day: We highlighted tips for implementing your own “Giving Day” in this blog. This can be a unique day that your organization chooses to ramp up efforts or you may decide to take advantage of Giving Tuesday. Regardless of what you choose, make sure you continue promoting your cause until December 31st. Surveys show 12% of funding comes in during the last 3 days of the year, so you shouldn’t just rely on one day for giving, but it can be a great tool to kickstart your efforts.

  8. Make It Easy To Give: Provide your donors with several options for giving and make the options clear! Create a button on your website for donations. Have a link on your social media pages that directs followers to give. Send pre-stamped envelopes for those donors who you know would rather give via check or cash.

  9. Focus On Donor Stewardship: It’s very rare that you can ask a person for money, and they give it to you on the spot. You need to steward a relationship with them first. Build trust and learn about the causes they are interested in. Donor stewardship is important for engaging new donors but also for helping to move current donors to the next level of giving. Don’t expect that your holiday postcard sent in December will be enough to gain significant traction. Make plans to meet up with specific people who you know can give more or should be giving period. Start those conversations today.
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  10. Make It Personal: Regardless of what methods you use to ask for gifts (email blast, mailings, one-on-one meetings), you need to bring the focus back to the people you serve and causes you are working to impact. Put a face to your mission and make it personal. Share specific stories of how your programs changed a family’s life. Introduce a donor to that single mom who went back to school. Highlight exactly where the donor’s dollars are going and who will be impacted. Along with the personal anecdotal stories, don’t forget to include your outcome results. Need help with having good data to share? Check out this blog or our services.

At Transform Consulting Group, we understand the many challenges that organizations face and often it begins with funding limitations. We want to work with you on ways to maximize your funding, so that you can move your cause forward. We love thinking outside of the box to come up with unique ways to engage current and new donors. Contact us today and let’s put your year-end campaign into motion!

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Is it time to redesign your program?

Organizations – public and private – go through different stages of development.  During this life cycle, it is not uncommon for an organization to update or modify their programs and services.  At the same time, however, some organizations can be stagnant and need to update their programs. How do you know when it is time for your organization to refresh your program?time 3

Below are three questions you should ask yourself to determine if it is time to update your program.

  1. Are we making the impact that we hoped to make?
  2. Is our program aligned with the latest research?
  3. Is our program meeting the needs of the target population?

If you answer no to any of these questions, then it might be time to seriously review your program. You may not need a complete redesign of your program, but it’s time to reevaluate.

When we have worked with other organizations to help them improve their impact by updating their program model, there have been a range of changes that we proposed implementing to achieve their results.

In one case, we worked with a large volunteer literacy tutoring program who was not making the impact they had hoped to make.  Through our assessment, we proposed the following changes that were then implemented:

  • Clarify the target population – we learned that the target population to enroll in and receive this literacy tutoring program needed to be more focused.  Students who were reading just below grade level benefited the most from this program.  Students who were more than one grade level behind were not a good fit for this type of tutoring program.  
  • Strengthen the curriculum and training – Since this program relies on volunteers – non-professional educators –  to deliver the tutoring, the curriculum is critical.  After researching other effective literacy tutoring programs delivering the impact we had hoped, we saw a theme in the curriculum and instructional practices that they were implementing.  We adopted a specific model of instruction and updated the training for volunteers.
  • Expand the capacity – the need for this organization’s work was high in the community, but their ability to meet the need was limited to the available volunteers.  They were interested in expanding their capacity through AmeriCorps members who would be able to significantly expand the number of students enrolled in and benefiting from the program.  We helped them determine how AmeriCorps members could enhance the staff capacity of their program and restructure the program model.

With another client who is working to help get first generation college graduate students, they were struggling to deliver the outcomes to their funders.  As we started helping them pull their program data together, the results were not what they had hoped.  After reviewing the data and the program activities, it did not take long to identify some gaps and opportunities in the program.  From our work, we proposed and helped them implement the following changes:

  • Develop new curriculum – Over the years as new staff have worked on the program, the curriculum had “evolved” into a hodge podge of worksheets and lesson plans that were slightly modified each year.  There was not a clear alignment of the curriculum with the identified outcomes.  Rather than modifying what they had in place, we decided to start over in developing a new curriculum that clearly aligned to the outcomes and would be “turn key” for staff to implement.
  • Align multiple programs – This organization operated a school-year program as well as a summer program.  Both programs shared similar objectives of helping get more first generation college graduates.  However, they operated as two separate programs.  We initially started to focus on the school-year program but quickly realized that the “dosage” or impact potential with the summer program was much more focused (40 hours x 6 weeks = 240 hours of “intervention” versus 1.5 hours x 32 weeks = 48 hours of “intervention”).  When we combined the two programs as one overall program, we expanded the “dosage” exposure as well as the possibilities of impact.
  • Focus the target population – The organization was working with multiple schools across a city.  In some cases, it was a middle school in one district and a high school in another district.  Instead, we targeted 2 districts and ensured that we had the middle schools that fed into the high schools for continuity purposes since this program enrolled 7th – 12th grade students with the goal of students enrolling each year.  This change provided efficiencies for the staff and also helped ensure that the students targeted for the program would receive the greatest exposure of enrolling multiple years.

In today’s information era, there is more research that is available to inform our work and ensure that we are implementing best practice strategies to affect change.  In addition, the populations and communities that organizations are serving are changing, and need to evolve with them.  Lastly, local, state and federal policies and priorities are shifting.  Organizations that can adapt to this changing environment can grow and potentially expand their impact.

If you want help assessing the shifting landscape in your community or industry, or you answered ‘no’ to one of the three questions above, then contact us.  We would love to learn more about your program and goals to see how we could support you.

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Plan a “Giving Day” to Raise Funds and Build Awareness

Are you tired of putting so much time and energy into another fundraising event? Maybe you’re going to the same donors repeatedly asking for money, and you want to start broadening your reach. Many organizations across the country are jumping on the concept of a “Giving Day.” A Giving Day is a day-long online fundraising effort that unites a community around local causes. It’s an initiative that many non-profit organizations and educational institutions are utilizing to diversify their funding streams.Giving Day 2

Unlike your typical fundraising in-person event, Giving Days are focused primarily online. There is usually a landing page for giving and then social media outlets are utilized to build hype and engage an audience.

Benefits of a Giving Day
  1. It’s more than fundraising: A Giving Day is not just a fundraiser, but it’s an awareness campaign. A Giving Day allows you the opportunity to share your mission, your organization’s story and purpose all day long.
  2. It’s more accessible: The advantage of hosting a Giving Day over an event is that people can engage on THEIR time. They don’t have to drive to a certain location or schedule a 2-hour timeslot. They can hop on their social media channels to watch interviews, read testimonials, and choose to give when it’s convenient for them.
  3. It broadens your audience: You don’t have to limit yourself to your local community. With an online campaign you can engage EVERYONE! You can reach people across the state, the country or the world through one simple click on their computer.
  4. It builds momentum: The task of planning a Giving Day can be daunting during year one. However, this is a campaign you revisit every year. Once you have the plan in motion and start building excitement, each year gets easier.

WDM Creative, a public relations and creative firm, wrapped up another successful Giving Day Campaign with the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indianapolis (RHI) on September 22nd. They have created a systematic approach and strategy to tackling Giving Days. They graciously shared some insight on their process.

Giving Day “Must Haves”
  1. 6 Months for Planning: WDM President Lori Winkler suggests a 6-month timeline to adequately plan your Giving Day. This time leading up to your actual day of giving is a great opportunity to build excitement and start promoting your campaign.
  2. Sponsorships & Match Dollars: It’s important to have some dollars planned before the actual Giving Day rolls around. Talk to corporations to partner with you, not just on the day of giving, but during the months leading up to the event! Have conversations with donors who may be willing to offerGiving Day 1 matches or incentives throughout your full Giving Day to build excitement or competition.
  3. Website Platform: It’s important to have a landing page up and running months prior to your Giving Day. Update content regularly as you nail down the schedule of the day or new corporate partners. Then have another page ready for the actual Giving Day where people can start making donations and see the money being raised in real time. Make sure your platform can handle the influx of visitors. Your 24-hour giving period is not the time for technical malfunctions!
  4. Social Media: Amp up your social media engagement for months prior to the Giving Day. You can create a Facebook Event like WDM did with RHI’s Giving Day. They also utilized Facebook Live and had hourly interviews with a variety of key stakeholders to share their story about the impact of the cause: patients, staff, researchers, donors, etc.
  5. Marketing Plan: You’ll want to develop a brand specifically for your Giving Day. Create logos, collateral material, etc. that accurately describes your organization and the goal of your Giving Day. These are all tools you can then reuse every year.
  6. Manpower: Whether you’re able to bring on a team like WDM or have a committee of volunteers, understand that you’ll need manpower to plan your day just as you would for an event. Even though your main focus is your online engagement, you may want a hub to generate excitement locally. This hub serves as a place for people to bring in cash donations and/or interviews to take place. If you’re hosting it at your organization, it is a great visual for staff or clients who walk through your doors daily. You may want an Emcee, someone who can shoot video for live Facebook interviews, people monitoring social media platforms and posting updates.
  7. Day Schedule: Plan out your day and market the schedule. Maybe you’ll host small competitions or matching opportunities. If there is a timeframe that you want to ramp up donations, consider providing a gift or incentives to donors during that time. If you have a special spokesperson that you’ll be interviewing live, then communicate often when viewers can tune in

At WDM, they have found that Giving Days not only lead to new donors, but also elevates current donors’ giving. It’s a great strategy for an organization who is willing to think outside the box to accelerate impact.

If you’re looking for new strategies to fundraise, contact us today and we’d love to chat about our services!

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4 Steps for Creating an Op-Ed Campaign

Is there a cause or issue you’re tackling, and you want to raise public awareness? We talked about gaining media attention by writing press releases in this blog as a way to help communicate your organization’s efforts to your community. Another strategy for building awareness around your work is to kick off an op-ed campaign.

An op-ed is an opinion piece written by a freelance writer, usually on behalf of an organization or nonprofit.
ANYONE can write an op-ed, and it can be a great strategy for educating the public on a cause, an event or sharing opinions about an issue.Op-Ed Blog

Too often nonprofits are so focused on providing great services and programs that they forget about educating others in the community about the important issues they are working to address. You don’t need a marketing firm to implement this work if you follow the steps below.

  1. Narrow your focus

What do you want your op-eds to communicate? While you may have several people contributing letters with different angles (see step 2), you want to communicate a consistent message. Even though the letters submitted will come from a variety of people with various angles, they must have this consistent theme throughout.

  1. Brainstorm possible writers

The number of writers and op-eds aren’t as important as who you choose to write. It is important to have a diverse group of writers who are well-respected and well-known people in your community. You want writers who the public will listen to. You also want different backgrounds and angles so that at the end of your op-ed campaign, you have communicated the FULL story.

The “messengers” are just as important as the “message”. You should think about having folks on the receiving end of your services, if appropriate, share their perspective. You will also want to have unusual stakeholders contribute. For a campaign to raise awareness about early learning, you might want to have your chamber write an op ed about how it affects workforce development.

  1. Determine your writing process

Once you determine your writers, spend time creating a systematic process. We recommend these steps to get you started:

  • Outreach: Someone needs to make the formal “ask.” This could be a staff member, volunteer, or donor, but it’s helpful that the “ask” comes from someone who already has a relationship with your prospect.
  • Educate: Make sure the writer understands your overall goals. Provide the writer with background information and possible data to incorporate in their letter. Brainstorm specific talking points and the angle you want them to take. The more information you can provide, the more likely they are to stay on message and align with your overall goals.
  • Create a template: While you want the writer to feel free to express their own thoughts and opinions, it is helpful to create an outline, talking points or template for them to follow. This will keep them on track and alleviate any confusion they may have as they begin the writing process. Think of some of the questions they may ask: How long should my letter be? What is the timeline? What areas should I focus on? What is the call to action or conclusion?

    Creating a tips sheets for writing op-eds will help your writers draft a compelling story that will engage the audience.
  • Edit: Decide who will edit the letters and make sure they explain any suggested changes to the writer. You want the writer to stay engaged throughout the entire process, and you want them to feel proud to have their name attached to the final piece.
  • Submit the letter: Determine who will submit the letters, and where they will be submitted. In some communities, newspapers ONLY accept letters from locals. Do your research on the submission process and any requirements.

    If the writer is submitting the letter, provide them clear steps for submitting it with all contact information for the local newspapers to make the process as simple as possible.
  1. Maintain authenticity

Real people are going to be attaching their names to these op-eds, and you want their personal voices to shine. Encourage your writers to share real-life examples and their personal experiences about how this issue has impacted them. Nobody wants to pick up the newspaper and read an op-ed that looks like a research paper. Ultimately, readers want a story that engages them and relates to them.

At Transform Consulting Group, we want to help you communicate your work and build awareness for the important causes you’re working to address. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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